macsnafu on December 20, 2011, 08:25:37 am
Apparently human nature has been changing though:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228340.100-steven-pinker-humans-are-less-violent-than-ever.html?full=true

I don't think it is human nature itself that's changed, but simply the circumstances that we live in that have changed, and that's what's led to a decrease in violence. Pinker doesn't have any strong answers as to why violence has declined, but he does make various suggestions, and even he seems skeptical that human nature itself has changed, if you read further down.

I love mankind.  It's PEOPLE I can't stand!  - Linus Van Pelt.

Killydd on December 20, 2011, 11:27:16 am
Several of those reasons do boil down to "culture" and just saying that in general we are less desiring of genuine violence.  Certainly advances in medicine lower the homicide rate as, for example, someone knocked around badly in a bar fight is now less likely to die.   World War 2 was the first time that battlefield casualties actually outnumbered disease as a cause of death. 

However, I'd argue that any change in culture that is  visible worldwide amounts to a change in human nature:  What we learn to think growing up is a more powerful force than genetics.  Is it better to say a change in human nurture?  maybe but it doesn't sound as good. 

sam on December 28, 2011, 09:23:58 pm
Pinker doesn't have any strong answers as to why violence has declined

Violence has not declined, but has increased hugely and horrifyingly during the democratic era - world wars instead of national wars, a gigantic increase in the rate of homicide and assault, an even more gigantic increase in the rate of imprisonment. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp99/rp99-111.pdf

In Britain, everything has been criminalized, except crime, which has been decriminalized.

In 1874 2 people were arrainged for homicide in NYC. 1 was held for trial. This rose substantially in 1875. Six people were held for trial.

Until the red terror of the French Revolution it used to be that the Spanish inquisition, which typically murdered a few dozen per year, was the example of horrifying state repression.

Today Egyptians murder a lot more than a dozen Christians per year, and everyone is impressed by how wonderfully democratic they are.

Queen Bloody Mary murdered 200 people, resulting in eight hundred refugees, and went down in British history as a horrifying bloody handed tyrant.

About two million Hindus were massacred for religious reasons in the partition of India, and hardly anyone remembers, that being fairly routine for the twentieth century.

During the twentieth century Sihanouk murdered twelve thousand, and gets written up as a saint. Tito a few hundred thousand, and is viewed as the exemplar of tolerant and peaceable communism.

During more than fifty years of what the Icelanders themselves perceived as intolerably violent civil war, leading to the collapse of the traditional system, the average number of people killed or executed each year appears, on a per capita basis, to be roughly equal to the current rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter in the United States.

Decolonization was a gigantic crime, that has killed almost as many people as communism.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2011, 09:25:32 pm by sam »

macsnafu on December 29, 2011, 08:54:32 am
Pinker doesn't have any strong answers as to why violence has declined

Violence has not declined, but has increased hugely and horrifyingly during the democratic era - world wars instead of national wars, a gigantic increase in the rate of homicide and assault, an even more gigantic increase in the rate of imprisonment. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp99/rp99-111.pdf

The last world war was more than 60 years ago. Since then, wars have been much more localized.  But you really want to argue with Pinker.  His book has all the data to support his position.
I love mankind.  It's PEOPLE I can't stand!  - Linus Van Pelt.

sam on December 29, 2011, 08:15:37 pm
Pinker doesn't have any strong answers as to why violence has declined

Violence has not declined, but has increased hugely and horrifyingly during the democratic era - world wars instead of national wars, a gigantic increase in the rate of homicide and assault, an even more gigantic increase in the rate of imprisonment. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp99/rp99-111.pdf

The last world war was more than 60 years ago.

Thanks to the peace of terror.

Wars are a bursty phenomenom, so sixty years is not sufficient for a trend.  A century, or better several centuries, is required.  And on the scale of centuries, wars have been becoming more terrible.

Crime and repression however, is less bursty, making measurements over short time periods meaningful. And over the last century, crime and repression have become markedly worse.

But you really want to argue with Pinker.  His book has all the data to support his position.

His data is misleading. He equates progressivism with peace.

To him, more people in jail is more progress, hence more peace.  Jail resembles progressive utopia, with free food, free housing, free medical care, and considerably less of all those other irritating freedoms that progressives do not much like.

mellyrn on December 30, 2011, 08:11:03 am
Quote
The last world war was more than 60 years ago.

The last officially-designated world war was more than 60 years ago.  There's this amusing little poll where, given choices of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5+ or "other" for "number of wars the US is currently waging", 39% answered "5+" and the runner-up, 16.8%, is for "5".  I reference the poll since your very statement indicates that what counts as "war" (or, as it may be, "world war") is very much a matter of opinion -- of how we define our terms.

How many places must the world's lone superpower bomb before we call it a "world" war?